Another fun way to explore: take a stroll through town and go shopping [Special Extra]

Stroll through unique streetscapes in towns across Japan

Everywhere one goes in Japan, the scenery is unique. Even just walking around, with no aim in particular, and simply taking in the views can be an exciting experience. Let’s look at 3 areas with streetscapes that are particularly interesting and ideal for strolling.

A historical merchant's town
The historic streetscapes of Takayama City in Gifu Prefecture
Former government outpost Takayama Jinya
“Takayama Jinya” was a government outpost in the 18th and 19th centuries

First, lets take a look at the city of Takayama in Gifu Prefecture, a city located in the central part of Japan, and surrounded by abundant nature. “Furui Machinami (Old Town)”is located in an area within Higashi-chiku (Eastern section) of Takayama that developed early on as a merchant’s town, and is lined with historic architecture from the late 19th to 20th centuries. The buildings have undergone renovations but have been maintained to keep the same appearances as in the old times, and are now being used for businesses such as a Sake (Japanese rice wine) production shop, a variety store, and a cafe. Old Town provides the perfect setting for a stroll. Nearby is “Takayama Jinya”, a former government outpost that was active during the 18th-20th centuries, and currently a tourist destination where visitors are able to tour the premises.

View from the Osanbashi Pier in Minato-cho, Yokohama
View from the Osanbashi Pier in Minato-cho, Yokohama
Yokohama Chinatown's gat
Yokohama Chinatown

Next, lets take a look at Yokohama, which throughout history has prospered as a port town close to Tokyo. Yokohama has always been characterized by unique scenery created by the converging cultures from both inside and outside Japan. The Osanbashi Pier is still today a lively hub, and now houses a passenger terminal for cruise ships. From The Osanbashi Pier you can enjoy a sweeping view of both the blue sea and the urban cityscape; the view at night is also mesmerizing. The adjacent Chinatown is the largest in Japan and a major tourist attraction.

An alleyway in the Higashiyama section of Kyoto
An alleyway in the Higashiyama section of Kyoto “Ishibei-Koji”
Kamogawa River, a recreational and relaxation space for Kyoto residents, becomes the site for the famous
Kamogawa River, a recreational and relaxation space for Kyoto residents, becomes the site for the famous “Noryo-Yuka” tradition every summer.

Next, let’s explore Kyoto, where many historic temples, shrines, and “Machiya (town houses where merchants and craftsmen lived and worked)” still remain. At “Ishibei-Koji (Stone Wall Lane)” near Kodai-ji Temple, located to the south of Yasaka Jinja Shrine, pedestrians stroll down a narrow stone alleyway, with “Ryotei (traditional Japanese restaurants)” and “Ryokan (traditional Japanese inns)”are lined up on both sides; This is an area where th atmosphere of traditional Japan is particularly powerful. From there, walking westward approximately 15 minutes from that alleyway, crossing Higashioji-dori, brings us to Kamogawa River, flowing through the center of the city of Kyoto. On the riverbanks which have undergone enhancement work to create an attractive walking path, waterside dining establishments open outdoor patio seating areas called “Noryo-Yuka” during the months of May – September every year, and patrons can enjoy their meal while feeling the summer breeze.

Many tourists wear Kimono when sightseeing in Kyoto
Many tourists wear Kimono when sightseeing in Kyoto

Recently, many Kimono (traditional Japanese garment) rental shops have opened in Kyoto, and as a result an increasing number of tourists from around the world are enjoying strolling through town in their Kimono. Strolling through the streets in a traditional Japanese garment is a great way to make your trip even more memorable.

After a stroll, enjoy shopping

After a stroll, a great way to continue the fun is to go shopping. Or maybe while sightseeing, you get thirsty or suddenly are in need of medicine. At times like these, the drug store chain Matsumoto Kiyoshi, which operates 1500 branches across Japan, offers great convenience. Matsumoto Kiyoshi, affectionately referred to as “Matsukiyo”, have branches in the aforementioned three areas, as well as in other major tourist areas. If searching for a souvenir or faced with a sudden need, visiting a Matsumoto Kiyoshi drug store can quickly solve the problem. Matsumoto Kiyoshi drug stores are popular shopping spots for both locals and tourists from abroad.

Matsumoto Kiyoshi Kyoto Shijo Kawaramachi branch
Matsumoto Kiyoshi Kyoto Shijo Kawaramachi branch. Kamogawa River flows close to the building, and on the opposite shore is Minami-za, a theatre where Kabuki (traditional Japanese theatre) is performed.

Matsukiyo’s popularity among tourists visiting Japan is not only due stores being situated close to tourist destinations. Matsukiyo offers an abundance of product variety, excellent quality, and cheap prices. Customer service is stellar; for example there are staff who are specifically assigned to provide multilingual assistance. All of this allows customers to shop at Matsukiyo with a sense of ease and trust. The spirit of service that is palpable in Matsukiyo stores comes from the attitude of founder Matsumoto Kiyoshi: “anything that makes a customer happy, just try it right away, whatever it is”. For example, Matsukiyo has envisioned the concept of a drug store-type retailer in Japan. The idea was to give this new type of drug store an image more inviting, light and fun compared to a traditional pharmacy, which one did not use to feel welcome to enter unless ill or injured. Matsukiyo was the first to roll out, and subsequently spread throughout Japan, this concept of a new drug store-type retailer that anyone would feel welcome to visit, and which would also handle a wide variety of cosmetics and groceries. This attitude of the founder continues to shine today, and is expressed through the provision of many customer-oriented services.

Visit “Matsukiyo” in tourist magnet Kyoto!

Tourists from overseas visiting the store
Tourists from overseas visiting Matsukiyo Kyoto Shijo Kawaramachi branch

“Matsumoto Kiyoshi Kyoto Shijo Kawaramachi branch” stands in the city center of Kyoto. Due to its location, many customers are tourists, and some are seen wearing Kimono (traditional Japanese garments). We asked them what they were looking for, what they bought, their impression of the store, and thoughts on sightseeing in Kyoto.

Chinese tourist dressed in Kimono
Bai (from China)

Bai, a Chinese exchange student currently studying in Yokohama, looks vibrant in the brilliant colors of the Kimono, which was professionally fitted at a rental store, “I’ve been in Kyoto since yesterday for sightseeing. Today I am planning to explore this area on foot. My mom asked me to buy her white hair dye, and I also purchased a face mask as a souvenir for my friend. Matsumoto Kiyoshi is convenient for picking up different types of products at once, and because the quality is good, people are happy with the souvenirs I buy here.”

Ukiyo-e face mask
Ukiyo-e face mask, popular among tourists visiting Japan

According to the staff, tourists visiting Japan are especially drawn to cosmetic products. Face masks with designs that are distinctly Japanese are popular, like the face mask Ms. Bai bought her friend. Many people come to buy items in bulk for souvenirs, and the store also sells multi-pack items. Some of the product displays include information in Chinese and English.

Tourists dressed in Kimono
Chen (front) and Chang (Taiwan)

Chin and Cho are visiting from Taiwan with their wives. While their wives are waiting in line at a restaurant, they have come to take a look around Matsukiyo, with their kids in baby carriages. “Taiwan has similar drug stores, but this store carries a wider variety of products. The information in Chinese is also very helpful.”

Shopping in Kimono
Barraud (France) / Photo shoot in cooperation with Kimono rental First

Barraud, from France, also enjoyed a professional Kimono fitting at the Kimono rental store. “I came to purchase skin care products for myself. In France, the pharmacy, cosmetics store, and grocery store are separate, so it is very convenient to be able to come here and buy everything at one place. It is open late at night, so I am able to come by after sightseeing as well.” Her favorite place in Kyoto so far has been Arashiyama.

Couple from Spain
A newly-wed couple from Spain

The newly-wed couple from Spain are here in Kyoto for their honeymoon, after having toured Tokyo, Takayama, and Kanazawa. The wife purchased a Shiseido hand cream, and the husband hair treatment. “Shiseido is well known in Spain. We are very satisfied, because we have been able to buy high-quality products for a cheap price!”

Free Wi-Fi and duty free support is available
(Left) Free Wi-Fi is available (Right) Counters are separated into duty free and non-duty free to streamline checkout

Matsumoto Kiyoshi has an excellent reputation for its broad product assortment and high quality standards. Additionally, Matsumoto Kiyoshi is dedicated to providing thoughtful customer service to tourists visiting Japan, attending to the finest details, for example: assigning staff to provide multilingual assistance, providing duty-free services at 300 branches across Japan, and providing free Wi-Fi. After strolling through a Japanese town, we recommend a trip to a Matsumoto Kiyoshi drug store, where shoppers feel a sense of ease and trust.